Pokémon GO has left its mark, even as its popularity inevitably declines. The game has made many brick-and-mortar businesses more aware of the creative ways that they can generate foot traffic and customers if they are willing to be as nimble as the best Pokémon GO trainers.
And Pokémon GO has made a marketing powerhouse out of its creator, Niantic Labs. My new column for Direct Marketing Magazine discusses the rise of Niantic and some implications of Pokémon GO for location marketing.
Check it out and contact us to discuss how to make location marketing more powerful.
Micro-moments just might be the phenomenon that shapes location marketing for years to come. Google defines micro-moments as, “times when people use their mobile phones to decide what to do, where to go, and what to buy.” And as mobile phone usage increases, micro-moments are only getting bigger.
In my latest Search Engine Land byline, I share how micro-moments are becoming more contextual as Google introduces tools such as filtered search results that make it possible for consumers to make more targeted, context-aware searches. And brands are figuring out how to serve up content appropriate to each person’s circumstances, ranging from the time of day to their location.
Want to uncover best practices to ensure that your business is visible and winning during micro-moments? Contact me; I’d love to discuss.
On August 1, Google removed a feature that allowed businesses to manually edit their introduction/description field on Google My Business (GMB). This news means that businesses with brick-and-mortar storefronts need to pay more attention to their data attributes — or descriptive content about a business — to be visible when “near me” searches occur.
Business descriptions used to be incredibly important for the mapping algorithm, but due to spamming and poor descriptions, Google has placed less and less importance on editing over the past few years. Indeed, Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land noted that keyword stuffing and spamming contributed to the removal of the feature. (But businesses can still edit their introduction/description fields on Google+.)
The most interesting aspect the announcement is that Google will rely on attributes instead for further details on businesses. As Google noted, “Editing of attributes, coming soon to all Google My Business views, will be an improved way to describe your business to users on Google Search and Maps.” Relying on attributes makes sense from Google’s perspective because structured data such as attributes is much more useful than paragraphs of typo-laden, keyword-stuffed descriptions.
At SIM Partners, we have been discussing the growing importance of attributes. My SIM Partners colleague Gib Olander recently defined attributes as a deeper layer of descriptive information such as product offerings, business specialties, services a business provides, payment methods accepted, hours of operation, and unique offerings within the business category.
Attributes are an important part of any business’s location data management foundation. As Gib noted, descriptive content assists in discovery search, or initial searches for a category. Managing your attributes properly ensures that your business will appear in the consideration set.
I recently noted in a recent Search Engine Land column that attributes are becoming so important that data publishers such as Google, Foursquare, and Yelp are strengthening their ability to capture and publish data attributes about businesses. Why? Because the use of mobile devices has accelerated the purchase decision at the local level. Mobile consumers are deciding where to do business via micro-moments, or times when consumers use mobile devices to make quick decisions about what to do, where to go or what to buy. In other words, the discovery search that Gib noted has become rapid discovery and purchase.
Attributes can make the difference between someone finding your business or someone else during a micro-moment. And as I noted in Search Engine Land, attributes encourage “next moments,” or the action that occurs after someone has found you during a micro-moment. Publishers such as Google and Foursquare understand that businesses failing to manage their attributes correctly will drop off the consideration set when consumers experience micro-moments.
It’s important that businesses manage your attributes as precious location data assets, especially as voice search makes it possible for consumers to do more descriptive searches for a category (“Siri, find me deep-dish pizza restaurants that serve lasagna, too”). As you manage your location data, make sure you have listed every possible attribute that differentiates your location, such as the availability of free parking. And, as always, share your location data with publishers such as Google and data aggregators such as Factual (collectively known as data amplifiers) that share your location data where near me searches occur.
Bottom line: now is the time to manage location data such as attributes as a competitive weapon. Contact us to discuss how we can help.
Pokémon Go is not only a cultural phenomenon; it’s also a location-marketing bonanza. The most popular mobile game in U.S. history, which challenges players to find, train, and do battle with Pokémon that appear in our real-world environments, will soon become bigger when the game’s creator, Niantic, rolls out an advertising model. But businesses that operate brick-and-mortar storefronts, especially retailers and restaurants, need not wait for Niantic to launch the model. Many brick-and-mortar businesses are increasing foot traffic and sales by creating their own location marketing Pokémon Go hacks — and so should you. This post offers five tips.
First off, a PSA: before you attempt jump on to the Pokémon Go location-marketing craze, do your homework. Download the app and play the game. (Chances are, someone at your location already is.) Get immersed. Appreciate the experience from the standpoint of the players. Understand how the game’s mechanics are intertwined with location.
For instance, playing the game means getting outside your home and work space and using your smartphone to join teams and find Pokémon that pop up in real-world locations (through the power of augmented reality). Those locations can and do include commercial establishments, which, naturally, draw players. If your location has been lucky enough to be designated a PokéStop or a gym by the game designers, players will visit you to collect special rewards, train their Pokémon, and do battle. By paying a modest fee, you can use a Lure to draw more Pokémon to your location, where players are bound to gather and play.
But you won’t know any of this important information unless you play the game. Fortunately, doing so is easy and fun — which is exactly why Pokémon Go became a global phenomenon within hours of its general release July 6.
Once you do your homework, it’s time to start capitalizing on the game. Here are some ideas:
1. Get into the Game
If your business is lucky enough to be a PokéStop or gym, you absolutely need to capitalize on your good fortune. You will gain natural foot traffic from people playing the game nearby (trust me — once they’re in your neighborhood, they’ll discover that you are a PokéStop or gym). But, better yet, you can draw foot traffic from far and wide by advertising your coveted designation, as the Sacramento Zoo does by using social media to notify players that they’ll find nine PokéStops and gyms inside the zoo. If you have a strong Facebook presence, try geo-targeted advertising on Facebook.
As noted, for a modest fee, you can also use a Lure module to attract Pokémon to your location (if you happen to be a PokéStop) for 30 minutes. Lure modules not only attract players, they also build goodwill because players know you were kind enough to set a Lure. Consider also offering a deal to anyone who visits your store to set a Lure. One New York pizzeria saw business increase 75 percent after its manager spent $10 to drop a dozen Lures.
2. Host an Event
Pokémon Go is a social game. Businesses can tap into the game’s social spirit and celebrate the players by hosting an event. For instance, restaurants should consider advertising Pokémon meet-ups with free or discounted food and beverages to attract players and teams (even if they’re on opposing teams). In Chicago, Japanese street food spot/ramen house Yusho is doing just that. The restaurant, which is also a Pokémon gym, has hosted a Pokémon party with special food offers.
3. Provide a Utility
Pokémon players are constantly on the go, burning up calories and depleting their mobile phone batteries. Savvy businesses could make themselves useful by offering free energy snacks and battery charges exclusively to players who come into their stores. In Australia, for instance, Virgin Mobile provides free phone charges at retail stores and kiosks in malls where its stores are located. Virgin Mobile also offers free secure charge lockers in food courts. And you don’t need to be a Virgin Mobile customer to enjoy the services — all you need to do is play Pokémon Go and stop in for a charge.
4. Reward Players
Players love to get rewarded with points and the status that comes with leveling up. So celebrate their achievements! For instance, advertise offers for players who accumulate a certain number of points or for those who capture one of the harder-to-find Pokémon. All they need to do is visit your location and show them your mobile phone. Remember, Pokémon Go players are in a happy, enthused state of mind. They want to visit locations where they can play. They will stay and spend money when you reward them to stay. Whatever you do, don’t alienate them by turning them away — unless you want to become a poster child for a business that doesn’t get it. You can also reward players by offering discounts for simply coming in, playing, and capturing Pokémon, as many businesses are doing.
5. Create Your Own Spin-off Contests
Another way to tap into the passion of Pokémon players is to create spin-off games. Consider, for instance, encouraging players to share selfies of themselves at your location (or images of Pokémon they’ve caught) on their social spaces, such as Instagram, with a customized hashtag. Then watch for the images and offer a reward to the most creative one. In Salem, Massachusetts, Flying Saucer Pizza Company encourages customers to share Pokémon Go pictures on social media and tag the restaurant. Players who do so are eligible to win free gift cards. Or you can do as Applebee’s has done, and simply offer to retweet and share your favorite fan-generated images that tag your location. Especially because Applebee’s has reach, the joy of a shout-out and share from the chain is a reward in and of itself.
As I noted in a recent Marketing Land column, Pokémon Go is only going to get bigger as Niantic rolls out a formal branded program. I would urge businesses to avoid the temptation to treat Pokémon Go as a passing phase. Pokémon Go is already surpassing many other apps in popularity, and Niantic is still rolling out the game worldwide. By tapping into a strong legacy Pokémon brand and creating a game with brilliant mechanics, Niantic has quickly launched a sustainable business model. Do your homework. Start playing. And start profiting.
For further reading:
Advertising Age, “Sponsored Locations Are Coming to Pokémon Go on a Cost-Per-Visit Basis,” by Maureen Morrison, July 14, 2016.
Bauserman Group, “10 Examples of Businesses Capitalizing on the Pokémon Craze,” July 15, 2016.
Eater, “How Restaurants Are Dealing with Pokémon Go Mania,” by Whitney Filloon, July 11, 2016.
Forbes, “How ‘Pokémon Go’ Can Lure More Customers to Your Local Business,” by Jason Evangelho, July 9, 2016.
Gizmodo, “Virgin Mobile Has Free Charging Stations for Pokémon Go Players,” by Rae Johnston, July 12, 2016.
Inc., “Pokémon Go Is Driving Insane Amounts of Sales at Small, Local Businesses. Here’s How It Works,” by Walter Chen, July 11, 2016.
PC Magazine: “Pokémon Go: How the Pokéconomy Is Changing Business, One Lure at a Time,” by Rob Marvin, July 13, 2016.
Street Fight, “6 Ways That Local Businesses Are Using Pokémon Go to Drive Business,” by Stephanie Miles, July 12, 2016.
If you’ve checked into a restaurant lately, you may have noticed that Google has asked questions such as “Does this location take reservations?” or “Does this restaurant serve breakfast all day?” Google is promoting these questions to help collect business attributes for locations, which helps consumers during their decision-making process.
Knowing if a restaurant takes reservations may inform your decision to go there. For that reason, businesses with multiple locations must treat their attributes as part of their location data.
In my latest Search Engine Land byline I share the importance of business attributes — and how, combined with accurate location data, they can create “next moments,” which encourage consumers to convert.
With recent developments such as Version 3 of the Google My Business API, businesses need to manage their attributes carefully. Have anything else to add? Connect with me — I’d love to discuss.
During SMX Advanced this week, Joy Hawkins confirmed that ads are indeed coming to the local pack.
This development is not unexpected, and Google has always tested and expanded where in search results they might insert advertising. Indeed, this isn’t the first instance of Google introducing advertising related to Google Maps, and search marketers have been writing about advertising in Google Maps for over six years now. The difference this time is the maps results (aka local pack results) on Google’s primary results pages are now having advertising inserted into it — something that has always been populated by organic only results.
Image Credit: The Verge
Why Is This Change Happening Now?
Google has been paying more attention to the way consumers discover businesses at the local level for a good reason: according to Google, the number of “near me” searches has surged 34x since 2011, and 88 percent of those searches involve a mobile device. During those near me searches, consumers quickly research and discover businesses nearby — moments of decision making that Google refers to as micro-moments. This shift means that although the amount of real estate for traditional paid ads on search engine results pages (SERPs) has shrunk in general, Google continues to experiment with new formats that include advertising at the local level, especially for mobile searches.
What Does This Change Mean for Brands with Multiple Locations?
Businesses that manage locations, especially multiple locations, need to address a number of important implications resulting from ads coming to local packs:
- Organic real estate is shrinking: With one third of the local pack listings in Google’s SERPs now being shifted towards paid ads, the competition for the remaining two will become fiercer than ever. It’s more important than ever that businesses treat their location data as a precious asset that is actively managed, organized, made accurate, and distributed to be visible where consumers conduct near me searches. Because the local pack lists a minimal amount of data to support a local search result, it’s absolutely crucial for businesses to get their basic name, address, and phone (NAP) data accurate. (Read the SIM Partners CMO’s Guide to Location Data Management for more best practices.) That said, it feels like this decrease in non-paid results could result in more people clicking on “More places” at the bottom of the local pack, which would, in turn, increase the amount of impressions that businesses currently ranked 4-7 would receive in the Local Finder results.
- A holistic local search strategy is critical: As I noted in a recent blog post about Google Maps, brands need to develop a coordinated paid/organic strategy that allows them to dial up their voice when appropriate and follow through on the increased awareness by making it easy for customers to find your locations. A paid strategy works best when you complement it with a foundation of strong location data.
- Having a compelling user experience of location pages is a must: For any business that wants to compete for that top spot in these new local pack ads, having a user experience that keeps visitors on pages is incredibly important for Quality Score purposes. The Google Quality score is an estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages. The Quality Score is a crucial metric. As Google notes, higher quality ads can lead to lower prices and better ad positions. (Google explains more about the Quality Score here.)
- There may be an additional benefit: businesses that offer a product or service in areas that they don’t physically exist an alternative way to appear in the local pack results other than spamming Google My Business with fake locations.
What Should I Do Next?
The bottom line is that businesses managing locations have fewer opportunities to appear in local pack results organically when consumers conduct near me searches. As a next step, businesses should assess the health of their location data. Is your location data accurate? Have you shared your location data with the major data aggregators and publishers that ensure your locations are found when consumers conduct near me searches? And since the overwhelming number of near me searches are conducted with mobile devices, are your local listings optimized for mobile? Being found naturally at a local level is getting more challenging in the new world that Google is creating. You need a strategy to support your findability with location data. Contact us to discuss how we can help.
To no one’s surprise, at the 2016 WorldWide Developers Conference, Apple showcased powerful new capabilities for its Siri voice-activated intelligent assistant. But Apple also did something else too: reassert itself as a powerful force shaping the future of location marketing. Businesses that manage multiple locations need to be ready for a slew of new changes by treating Apple as an amplifier for their location data across an ecosystem of discovery that spans apps ranging from Apple TV to Maps. Here is a quick snapshot of those changes:
Smarter Apple Maps
With iOS X, Apple has redesigned Apple Maps and opened up the app to developers, giving Apple Maps capabilities that make local discovery smarter, more interactive, and seamless. For instance, when you open up Apple Maps, Maps proactively suggests a route to different places such as work or restaurants based on what Maps knows about your habits at various times throughout the day. Once you are on the road, Apple Maps will inform users of alternate routes and distances to places that seem interesting to the user. Slick features include a new “Dynamic View,” which adjusts the zoom level based on how fast you’re driving and how long this stretch of road is. Many of these changes amount to Apple taking some of the advances the company made with app indexing in iOS 9 and pushing the results and data collected beyond Spotlight and Siri results directly into native apps like Maps.
Even more significant, though, are the changes coming to Maps as Apple opens up Maps to third-party developers via Map Extensions. With Map Extensions, Apple Maps will be a more useful all-in-one feature for on-demand living. For instance, as Apple demonstrated, users will be able to use Maps to search for places to eat, book a reservation via OpenTable, and order an Uber ride to their destination, paying for all transactions without even leaving Apple Maps. Consequently, Apple Maps will become a stronger destination not only to navigate but also to conduct transactions in a frictionless environment.
I’m speculating here, but as I learn more about the way Apple Maps is evolving, I envision businesses making their locations more intelligent and minimizing the friction of converting “near me” moments of intent into “next moments” of business for the brand. For instance, a hospital could insert a Schedule an Appointment call to action directly into the business cards in Maps results if a user has authorized Maps to allow that action to happen.
Siri: Smarter and More Pervasive
Apple is also making Siri an even smarter and more common discovery tool especially by opening up Siri for third-party development.
For instance, if you are looking for movies to watch on Apple TV, you will be able to use Siri to do more natural, intuitive searches, such as “Find high school comedies from the 1980s,” and on YouTube, “Find Steph Curry’s 3-point shots.” Users will also be able to conduct intelligent searches on their Macs, ranging from “Find me my work files from Ken marked DRAFT” to “What new movies are playing this Friday?” And you can pay for the movie you find by using either your iPhone, desktop, or tablet because Apple is integrating Siri across all devices.
By integrating Siri across multiple devices, Apple recognizes that no single platform owns the discovery process. If we’re doing especially rich, complicated research — say, researching lodging or flight options as we plan a family trip, or researching a personal medical issue before we search for physicians — we might start on our desktops. Then we might toggle over to our iPhones when we move from a broader discovery for narrower searches on the go. Apple understands we live in a multi-channel world, with mobile at the center. And now Siri.
By allowing third-parties to build more intelligent voice controls, Apple is strengthening Siri’s position within the discovery ecosystem as Apple fights with Google to win the war for intelligent search. For instance, Apple’s Craig Federighi demonstrated how to use Siri to make a command with another app, in this case WeChat: “WeChat Nancy that we’ll be 5 minutes late.” From there, you can use Siri to manage functions ranging from getting an Uber ride to booking dinner. This more seamless functionality will accelerate the uptake the voice search by making voice commands more natural and easier to make across multiple apps. As analyst Mary Meeker noted in her popular 2016 Internet Trends report, voice search is one of the key trends influencing how people live and how businesses operate. Google has been anticipating this change for some time.
At 2016 WWDC, Apple has made it clear that it expects to be the center of discovery, which includes local discovery. It is essential that businesses sense and respond by optimizing your location data for Apple, which is one of the major “data amplifiers” ensuring that content is found where people conduct “near me” searches across the discovery ecosystem.
Google Maps has always been an important place for businesses to be visible. Now Google has given businesses a reason to turn Google Maps into next moments of discovery via promoted content. The advent of promoted content on Google Maps means that businesses can expect free real estate to start disappearing on Google Maps — and it’s all the more important to pursue a holistic paid/organic search strategy.
Next Moments and Google Maps
A next moment is a term SIM Partners created to describe the action that occurs after someone finds your brand through a search, typically on a mobile device. Next moments can occur anywhere searches are done, including apps such as Google Maps.
Next moments are critical for any business that operates locations. Being visible in search results puts you in the consideration set when people look for things to do, places to go, and things to buy. When you offer content such as a mobile wallet offer or a booking widget, you encourage the next moment, such as a visit to your store to make a purchase.
In a May 24 blog post, Google made some important announcements that, in effect, make it easier for businesses to create next moments on Google Maps by publishing ads and promoted content on their Google Maps locations:
- Businesses that enable location extensions on their AdWords accounts can display ads for their locations on Google Maps. Your ads appear in two places: within the search results list when people conduct near me searches; and on Google Maps themselves where your location appears. According to Google’s Sridhar Ramaswamy, Senior Vice President, Ads and Commerce (and author of the blog post), your ad may also have a Directions button so that a searcher can easily get directions to your business.
- Google is also experimenting with ways to make businesses easier to find through promoted content as people conduct near me searches. As Ramaswamy noted, “For example, Maps users may start to see promoted pins for nearby coffee shops, gas stations or lunch spots along their driving route.”
- Local business pages are becoming more interactive. To encourage searchers to visit your location, Google is adding new features to your Google Maps pages such as special offers and the ability to browse your product inventory.
You get the picture: Google Maps is becoming a playground for promotable content.
We’ve been seeing this change coming. For instance, last year on our blog, we noted that Google was making gas stations more prominent on driving routes on Google Maps (as Apple was doing). As we noted, Google was showing the name of the gas station, its distance from the driver, and how to get there — certainly not the same as promoted content, but definitely nudging Google Maps to a more brand-friendly experience. The addition of Pit Stop on iOS was another sign of Google connecting the dots between businesses and consumers using Google Maps to assist in navigation and discovery.
But features such as Pit Stop were more oriented toward enriching brand discovery in a more organic way, and they reminded businesses of the importance of being findable with accurate location data. The features Google announced May 24 are clearly geared toward businesses are willing to advertise.
Why the New Features?
So why is Google making these changes? As Google noted, Google Maps is a bridge between the online and offline worlds — and the successful conversion online-to-offline searches is not only of interest to Google advertisers but to Google to remain relevant to how consumers discover brands.
These words from Ramaswamy jumped out at me:
We’re also making it easier for marketers to bridge the digital and physical worlds. With location-related mobile searches growing 50% faster than all mobile searches, it’s clear that consumers are moving seamlessly between online and offline experiences. So it’s important to help marketers think this way too.
Not only are consumers seamlessly moving between online and offline experiences, they’re seamlessly moving along the sales funnel: 80 percent of local searches on mobile phones convert. According to Google, nearly one third of all mobile searches are related to location. Google Maps is all about mobile.
Google also intends to make measuring online-to-offline foot traffic more common so that brands can track their progress, too. In 2014, Google launched Store Visits, a feature that relies, in part, on Google Maps data to help businesses measure the offline impact of online ads placed on Google. On May 24, Google announced the availability of Store Visits to a broader range of advertisers.
It’s no coincidence that the expansion of Store Visits is occurring alongside the disclosure of a more brand-friendly Google Maps. Google not only wants to encourage next moments via advertising, the company wants to make them happen on Google platforms — and Google has the data (from Google Maps) to measure the success of those next moments.
What Should Businesses Do?
My advice to businesses that operate locations is as follows:
- Set the foundation with location data. You can’t create next moments without first being found. Job One should be making your location data accurate and then sharing that data with Google so that your locations appear when near me searches occur on Google Maps. Treating your location data as a competitive asset requires a strategy and ongoing management, as we discuss in more detail in The CMO’s Guide to Location Data Management.
- Develop a coordinated paid/organic search strategy. With free real estate on Google Maps and search engine results pages shrinking, brands need to develop a coordinated strategy that allows them to dial up their voice when appropriate and follow through on the increased awareness by making it easy for customers to find your locations. A paid strategy works best when you complement it with a foundation of strong location data.
- Be smart about creating next moments. Don’t use promoted content to plaster boring billboards on Google Maps. Winning next moments means creating contextual content such as offers customized by place, season, and the circumstances of the discovery.
As Google enriches company brand pages for Google Maps, businesses should take advantages of the opportunity to create rich, descriptive content and experiences that turns discovery into business. Contact us to talk more.
We’ve been actively following the Google My Business API updates for as long as they’ve been happening, and the recently announced Version 3 API update is no exception. As with the Version 2 update, Version 3 makes it possible for businesses to make a number of updates to their locations which previously needed to be done manually. In addition, the update introduces new functionality that businesses can manage only through the latest version of the API. This announcement should matter to anyone who manages multiple locations as it underscores Google’s commitment to support location marketing through data. And since Google is a market bellwether, the API should impress upon businesses the need to manage location data as a competitive asset.
The API supports a number of processes at the local level, which needed to be completed manually previously. For example, a company can select a primary photo for its Google My Business page. Google uses those photos to power its knowledge graph, local finder, and Snack Pack search results, among other places. The API also uses filters to understand which locations have had suggestions made to their information, if any locations have been suspended, and if there are any duplicate listings in GMB. Other processes that can now be managed via the API include:
Transferring locations to different accounts. This could be important for agencies that manage SMBs with a lot of changes in management.
Seeing the status of all locations associated with your GMB account to understand if they are verified or unverified.
Even more exciting are the new functions available to make a business’s location more valuable to people conducting near me searches. Though GMB, businesses can add a deeper layer of location information, or attributes, beyond foundational location data such as the business’s name, address, and phone number. Attributes consist of content details such as the services a business provides and additional detail that may not apply to all businesses, such as the availability of free parking. Whereas foundational data builds an identity for a location, attributes help people conducting near me searches decide whether to visit the location.
The API update also makes it possible for businesses to read and respond to Google reviews through the GMB API. Previously, marketers could pull reviews through the Google Places API, but they could not pull reviews and respond in one place.
What the the API Update Means
Once again, Google is sending a message through its actions: in Google’s world, location marketing is getting bigger and bigger. By now you’ve read the data Google has published about near me searches increasing 34x since 2011. Google is reading not only the data but also the tea leaves and sees location marketing in its future. The GMB API updates continue to show that empowering brands to build a stronger location marketing foundation through data is the key to succeeding in that future. We’ll be talking more about the implications of the GMB API update soon. Meanwhile, contact us to discuss the impact of Google’s latest market-making move on your business.
Image Credit: PixBay
Everyday search is evolving, and Google has made adjustments to its product roadmap based on the shift in search behavior.
In my most recent Search Engine Land byline, I share how Google is responding to changing search behaviors. For example, Google is creating physical products like Android Wear, Chromebooks, and driverless cars. I also urge marketers to sense and respond to change just as Google is.